Philemon Sturges & Anna Vojtech,
Marushka & the Month Brothers
(North-South, 1996)

Marushka's smile could "thaw a January day." But her stepmother and stepsister Holena are so frozen with envy of Marushka's charm they cannot be melted. With Marushka's father gone, they freely laden her with chores and rail her with spite. But try though they may to dim her with mistreatment, Marushka keeps her bright spirits.

One bitter January, Holena and her mother increase their efforts to push Marushka from their home. When Holena wakes with a strong desire to smell violets, Stepmother sends Marushka into the swirling snow to find some -- or else. Marushka head towards the frozen Tatra Mountains on her hopeless quest, where her good manners and warm smile earn her aid from someplace she did not expect -- the magic hollow of the Month Brothers. When Marushka returns to the cottage with a bouquet of violets in hand, Holena and Stepmother are furious. Determined to be rid of her, they send her out with a series of increasingly impossible demands; each time, they expect her not to return. But with the help of brothers January, March, June and September, Marushka just might survive until spring.

Philemon Sturges and Anna Vojtech's version of this popular Slavic folktale is charming and a pleasure to read. Their prose is light and graceful, while Vojtech's delicate drawings viscerally evoke the miracles in the story. Parents looking for a more active female heroine will find their needs met with Marushka & the Month Brothers; the tale has the overworked underdog themes of Cinderella and Snow White, without the savior prince. Marushka alone wins her happiness at the end of the tale, through her warm heart, hard work and charming smile. Sturge and Vojtech's presentation of Marushka's story certainly charmed me.

- Rambles
written by Tracie Vida
published 17 April 2004



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